Donald Trump has chosen CIA Director Mike Pompeo to replace Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who he’s fired. Replacing Pompeo at the CIA will be current CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel, who will—assuming she’s confirmed—become the first woman to run the agency. But while Haspel’s appointment as deputy director last year was cheered by many former CIA officials, she played a significant role in the brutal torture employed during the early George W. Bush years. As the New York Times reported in February 2017:
She played a direct role in the C.I.A.’s “extraordinary rendition program,” under which captured militants were handed to foreign governments and held at secret facilities, where they were tortured by agency personnel.
The C.I.A.’s first overseas detention site was in Thailand. It was run by Ms. Haspel, who oversaw the brutal interrogations of two detainees, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Mr. Zubaydah alone was waterboarded 83 times in a single month, had his head repeatedly slammed into walls and endured other harsh methods before interrogators decided he had no useful information to provide.
The sessions were videotaped and the recordings stored in a safe at the C.I.A. station in Thailand until 2005, when they were ordered destroyed. By then, Ms. Haspel was serving at C.I.A. headquarters, and it was her name that was on the cable carrying the destruction orders.
The Times offered a few pieces of mitigating information: Haspel supposedly issued that order to destroy the recordings under orders from a superior. We don’t know what she personally thought about the policies she was carrying out in 2002. That kind of torture is illegal now anyway, so she can’t just go ahead and order it on her own authority.
But it’s not clear that there’s any possible answer to the enthusiasm for torture that would lead to a man being waterboarded 83 times in a month and having his head slammed into walls. Haspel oversaw that, and that goes above and beyond just following a policy. To say nothing of the fact that the honorable choice would be to resign rather than torture, to be a whisteblower rather than an eager follower of immoral orders.
Anyway, that’s going to be your first woman in charge of the CIA.